Thursday, June 20, 2013

Re-Kindling Interest: Different Strokes: How I (Gulp!) Wrote, Directed, and Starred in an X-Rated Movie by Lawrence Block writing as John Warren Wells

This is one of a series of reviews focusing on out-of-print works that have become available again via a variety of e-book formats.

In 1973, at the height of the mainstream pornography heyday, with films even now considered classics of the style (Deep Throat, The Devil in Miss Jones) playing alongside other Hollywood fare, author Lawrence Block was hired to write a similar film that would have "a real script and a good cast and wide distribution." (Something author Terry Southern predicted in his novel Blue Movie.) The film was to be titled Different Strokes, but things didn't quite work out and it was never made.

But, as part of the deal, Block had arranged with his publisher to document the production in a book that would also include the screenplay and interviews — "for some subsidiary income [since] I wasn't going to be getting much actual cash for [the script]" — and publish it under Block's sexual-behaviors pseudonym, John Warren Wells.

Neither saw a reason why they couldn't go ahead with that part.

The result, Different Strokes: How I (Gulp!) Wrote, Directed, and Starred in an X-Rated Movie, is almost entirely fiction. (Some of it based on actual events that occurred before the production was cancelled.) But, according to Block's afterword in Different Strokes, "that was easy enough. It was fiction, and I'd been writing fiction for years. I liked fiction. You weren't tied down by facts."

And if there's something Lawrence Block is great at, it's fiction. I've been a fan of his for a couple of decades now, and Different Strokes has the same voice, humor, and skill at characterization and storytelling that have made him a best-seller since the 1980s.

His work from before that period is generally of the same quality; it has just been hard to acquire due to its often being hidden under a variety of pseudonyms. But now that Block has begun digitally releasing back-catalog works like Different Strokes: How I (Gulp!) Wrote, Directed, and Starred in an X-Rated Movie — and giving some away on Orange Wednesdays at his blog — it's going to be much easier to find a high-quality Lawrence Block book to read whenever I want one.

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